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Scaling a product management team, lessons learned from startups and enterprises, and how to drive customer success from a product advisory board :: with Kiel Sanders and Patrick Lowndes

In this episode of Ventures, my guests Kiel Sanders (https://www.linkedin.com/in/kielsanders), Patrick Lowndes (https://patricklowndes.com/), and I discuss many details surrounding growing product management teams and operating efficiently at scale. We discuss the various roles that newer founders may not be aware of that exist at larger companies, the skill sets needed to recruit and manage effectively, setting up a product advisory board, what to do when customers are unhappy, and lessons learned when scaling products both at a new startup and within a larger organization.

You can watch this episode below or listen on Apple Podcasts, Spotify, Google Podcasts, or wherever you get your podcasts (search for “Ventures”).


In this episode we cover the following:

2:11 - Will’s tee-up and high-level introduction

2:46 - Patrick introduction, background, and tee-up for Kiel

5:02 - Kiel’s background, role in (and information about) Service Now (https://www.servicenow.com/), employee experience, and growing products internally.

6:06 - The dance of product and growth. The “simple things”. First key question; when you are at the stage where you initially need to start growing your product team, how do you think about executing that process?

13:10 - Customers, sales, and implementations. Making sure that sales understands the messaging.

14:10 - Founders may not understand, at scale, how to effectively manage a product team. What roles are in place at a larger organization to run an efficient product team?

16:16 - As CEO, “Your goal is slowly but surely fire yourself”

20:01 - The need for the customer success side. Working with the early adopters is key.

21:19 - For the very early stage startup (e.g. a two-person startup), how do you handle the people? How do you think about your people management?

26:00 - At what point does the multi-skillsets-needed role change to hiring people who are more niche experienced?

30:04 - How can product management effectively help and empower the marketing team to do their job better?

35:22 - If you set up a product advisory board, how/who do you select? How do you communicate with them?

40:11 - A common problem at a growing startup - and especially a larger organization - is “people motivation.” How do you keep hungry and driven people? How do you keep a fire in the bellies of your co-workers?

46:33 - As a product manager, what do you do when the product is unhappy? What do you do when churn is high and the numbers are tending bad directions?

51:37 - What would Patrick have done differently at VendorHawk from a people/product/company perspective? What has he learned in a large organization that has informed this? (He would have had someone working more closely with customers earlier).

53:52 - For Kiel, for leading teams as an intrapreneur, how has his management style evolved?

55:46 - What resources would Kiel and Patrick recommend based on the topics we’ve covered in this episode? (https://www.juliezhuo.com/book/manager.html // https://www.amazon.com/Lean-Startup-Entrepreneurs-Continuous-Innovation/dp/0307887898 // https://svpg.com/inspired-how-to-create-products-customers-love/ )

57:54 - Where can people find Patrick and Kiel online? https://www.linkedin.com/in/kielsanders/ // https://patricklowndes.com/